Empty building decision awaits

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A district councillor has urged next week’s planning committee to use common sense when deciding the future of a Long Melford site.

In May last year, an application was submitted to change the use of the Old Barn in Withindale Lane, Long Melford, which had once been used as an art therapy centre in the 1990s.

Despite its loss of profit as a commercial building, planning regulations force the owner to fully explore the possibility of retaining the property for employment purposes, including a year-long marketing campaign.

Richard Kemp, Babergh district councillor for Long Melford, who requested to refer the application to the planning committee, said the village was in need of residential properties like the Old Barn.

“I can’t personally see any legitimate reason why the approval should not be given,” he said.

The recommendation given in the report prepared before the committee meeting next week is to refuse planning permission based on the potential loss of employment.

As well as the lack of viability proven by the collapse of the art therapy business, the property is also restricted by a legal covenant signed by the owners of the access road.

The owners, Mary and Ian Russell, have told the planning officer that they have no intention of granting the road commercial access and plan to resist any commercial use of the building.

Mr Kemp said he understands that planning officers have to follow the regulations set out by law, but urged committee members to think rationally about what is best for the village.

“The simple matter of fact is due to this restrictive covenant, the property may not be used as a commercial premises,” he said.

“I think when you have an impossible situation like this, you should apply common sense.

“Whatever flexibility there is within planning guidelines should be used.”

In a letter to the planning committee submitted with the planning application in May, the applicant, Aidan Powlesland, said the empty building was gradually falling into decay.

The Old Barn has been empty since 2012.

Mr Powlesland hopes to turn the building into a one-bedroom house for renting.